In this section, we will go through the COCOA CAT framework for writing, including details on the different elements that make up this approach.
In the following video, Lisa Salem-Wiseman provides information on the COCOA CAT acronym in greater detail, including its applicability to writing in the health sector.
(To read along click here.)
Good writing should be simple and clear, and clarity always comes first. As Albert Einstein said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
Traditionally, the passive voice has been regarded as more objective and ‘scientific’ but many scientific journals now ask authors to use the active voice. (For example, see here and here.) The active voice keeps the agent clear, for instance, “We discovered the errors” is much clearer than “The errors were discovered”.
Brevity helps simplify writing. Try to remove:
- Meaningless words and phrases, such as: it is of interest to note; in order to; due to the fact that; as already stated; basically; interestingly; it goes without saying
- Redundantly paired words, such as: final outcome; red in colour; small in size; combine together; important essentials; interval of time; fewer in number
- Adjectives and adverbs of no clear limit, such as: very; multiple; sort of; quite a few; a lot; only; many; various
- Phrases that can be replaced with a word, for example: ‘despite the fact that’ can become ‘although’; ‘in the event that’ can become ‘if’; and ‘at the present time’ can become ‘now’.
The longer and more involved your writing needs to be, the more important it is to write an outline to clearly organize the content and flow.
Writing clearly keeps your message accurate and to the point.
Be aware of commonly misused words and phrases, such as: assure, ensure, insure; case, participant, subject, patient; use, usage, utility, utilize.
Always use inoffensive language; anything that offends someone excludes someone. As mentioned in the previous lesson, you should be aware of humour, jargon, and acronyms in your writing. Clearly define these aspects in your writing to make it easier for your audience.
When in doubt, have someone else to read over what you have written before you release it to your audience to ensure it is thorough and that you haven’t missed anything important.
Learning Exercise: Concise Writing
Concise writing should be clear and accurate writing. Edit the following sentences to make them more concise.
After each question, once you have filled in your answer, click on ‘Hint’ to see one possible way to edit the sentence.
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Question 1 of 5
At the end of the meeting it would perhaps be beneficial to start getting ideas as to what our team might like to do to celebrate our annual winter holiday lunch.
Grading can be reviewed and adjusted.Grading can be reviewed and adjusted.
This response will be awarded full points automatically, but it can be reviewed and adjusted after submission.
Suggestion: At the end of the meeting it would be good to discuss ideas for our team’s annual holiday lunch.
Question 2 of 5
As will become clear, our department has changes to be made in order to have a chance to meet the updated Health and Safety hazardous waste disposal guidelines in a timely fashion.Grading can be reviewed and adjusted.Grading can be reviewed and adjusted.
To meet the updated Health and Safety guidelines, our department needs to make immediate changes in how we dispose of hazardous waste.
Question 3 of 5
Next week we will have the chance to host members of the oncology team from Mercy Hospital in a collaboration capacity, looking at our most recent radiation therapy numbers and outcomes as well as treatment protocols.Grading can be reviewed and adjusted.Grading can be reviewed and adjusted.
Next week we will be hosting members of Mercy Hospital’s oncology team. Together we will be looking at radiation therapy outcomes data and treatment protocols.
Question 4 of 5
We will have to review the important essentials of the new telephone guidelines in terms of minimizing hold times for callers wishing to book appointments.Grading can be reviewed and adjusted.Grading can be reviewed and adjusted.
We will review our new guidelines to reduce the length of time people spend on hold when they call to make an appointment.
Question 5 of 5
All resource binders should be kept at the reception desk location, and those which are red in colour should always be on the uppermost top shelf.Grading can be reviewed and adjusted.Grading can be reviewed and adjusted.
All resource binders should be kept at the reception desk, and the red ones should always be on the top shelf.